2017 Halftime Sales Check-In and Challenges

When I was about 25 I remember telling my step-grandfather that it seemed like the years kept getting shorter and Christmas came around sooner every year. He replied, “Mitch, at my age, it feels like Christmas comes every other week!” Well, not sure how quickly the first-half of 2017 went by for you, but to me, it felt like the blink of an eye. So I thought I’d use this mid-year post to share some reflections and random thoughts on what I’m seeing work (and not work) in the world of sales, and also to challenge your thinking heading into the back-half of the year.

The job of a professional seller is to justify the difference between the premium price your company charges and what others are charging. The past two weeks I was consulting in two very different companies – although both were suffering from the same malady – salespeople who were convinced that their price was too high. Let me say this, once again, as emphatically as possible: Be very careful about complaining that your price is too high. That’s what pays us! Companies with low prices don’t need highly compensated salespeople to sell their offerings. They can just hang the price out on the internet and say, “Come and get it. We’ve got the lowest price anywhere.”

I repeat: our job is to justify the delta between what we charge and the lower price of alternatives. That’s how we bring and create value – for the customer, for our company, and for ourselves! Please stop whining about your company’s pricing. Instead, be thankful for the opportunity to deploy your sales skills and earn a great living.

Salespeople who lead with price and are quick to quote (or send proposals) are getting commoditized and losing deals faster than ever. On a related note, I am constantly amused (and perturbed) by the number of sellers who think they’re being judged by the number of proposals delivered and the speed by which they deliver them. Don’t confuse what I’m saying here. We absolutely want to get into (or even create) opportunities early, and we want to be quick to respond to inquiries and leads. But that’s a very different thing than rushing through, or skipping stages of, the sales process. Just because a customer or prospect requests pricing info or a proposal, that doesn’t mean it’s the right time to do it. The moment you provide pricing, a proposal, or even do a “presentation” too soon for that matter, prior to performing adequate discovery and truly understanding the prospect’s situation, you are committing sales malpractice – and are guaranteed to come across as nothing more than a vendor or commodity seller. One of the companies I was with recently had an abysmally low win-rate because they were quoting projects prematurely. Had their salespeople done their homework, better understood the customer’s environment, buying process, and the competitive landscape, they never would’ve quoted many of the projects that they did – and, they would be winning a higher percentage of the proposals they decided to submit due to executing better discovery and sales process. Lesson learned.

While on the topic of the stages of the sales cycle and how important it is to progress through the stages in the proper order, last week my friend, Keenan, wrote a great piece in Forbes. I won’t steal his thunder; go read it yourself. What I love about the article is that he uses different words and a powerful example to describe something that I preach regularly: DISCOVERY MUST PRECEDE PRESENTATION (and DEMO)! I make the argument that if you cannot adequately articulate the prospect’s situation (needs, pains, initiatives, desired outcomes) then you have no right to be demoing or presenting anything. Read Keenan’s piece about the one word you should never use in a demo to see if you agree with both of us.

The Social Selling-Only Bubble has finally burst – for good. This movement has been losing air for a while, but the first six months of 2017 made it official. Just recently, one of the biggest names/companies in the social selling training business posted openings for a sales position. In the very first bullet of the description it states that it is expected that the salesperson will generate sales opportunities using outbound sales tactics. Read that again. You see, just like I shared in this post a couple months back, even the biggest and most respected social platform companies and inbound marketers are deploying outbound sales teams. So be very wary of the morons and charlatans posting too good to be true nonsense that traditional prospecting doesn’t work and that you’re an idiot or luddite if you think the telephone is still an effective sales tool. Anyone who is still saying that has an agenda and is trying to sell some snake oil or an easy button to lazy salespeople who want to be told not to pick up the phone! When social selling training companies and inbound marketing companies are requiring their own reps to make outbound calls to fill the funnel, that tells you all you need to know. Case closed. Stop looking for justification that you don’t want to prospect and pick up the freakin phone!

Sales managers who are executing the basics are being rewarded and those trying to do their people’s jobs or who are mired in corporate crap are as frustrated and exhausted as ever. I’ve been privileged between January and June to lead Sales Management. Simplified. workshops in places ranging from Amelia Island to Appleton, Cancun to Chicago, the desert of Arizona to the District of Columbia, from San Diego to St. Louis and even several more. It’s been an absolute blast and also been both affirming and revealing. I could write another book (and might) on what I’m observing amongst sales leaders across a variety of companies and industries. But for the purposes of this mid-year post, let me summarize for you with this:

  • Sales managers who run from corporate meeting to meeting and conference call to conference call are not only not leading their teams well, they are not producing the sales results they should be.
  • Sales managers who live constantly in “hero-mode” – who instead of coaching, mentoring, and empowering their salespeople, try to attend every big customer meeting, touch every presentation and proposal, and close every big deal – are dying of exhaustion and on the edge of burnout. Rather than multiplying themselves into their people and making “heroes;” they are trying to be the hero and failing miserably as this un-scalable and unsustainable model takes it toll on them and their frustrated sellers. I’ll expand more on this critical topic in a future post.
  • Sales managers who tell me that they are afraid of increasing accountability and addressing underperforming reps because they don’t want to deal with recruiting and/or potentially having an empty territory continue to limp along with low-performance cultures and suboptimal sales results. Just ponder the implications of that odd perspective.

On the other hand, I am thrilled to report that sales leaders who’ve adopted the simple framework from Part Two of the book and who have regained control of their calendars to focus on the highest-value sales leadership activities are experiencing:

  • Radically changed healthy sales cultures filled with engaged salespeople who are focused on results, pipeline health, and new opportunity creation.
  • Increased visibility and accountability stemming from effective 1:1 manager-salesperson meetings that rapidly identify and address underperformance, and reveal opportunities to “coach-up” salespeople.
  • Improved selling skills resulting from revamping sales team meetings so they are actually sales meetings that align, equip, and energize the salespeople.
  • Laser-focused salespeople who are proactively attacking strategic target account lists comprised of both growable existing customers and ideal profile prospects (instead of living in reactive mode waiting for leads or doing the “milk run”).

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The updated/re-recorded Audio/Audible version of New Sales. Simplified., narrated by yours truly, was just released last week.

Thank you for forcing me into the studio to re-record New Sales. Simplified. to replace the version from the original narrator. We are thrilled with the result and are working on some fun upcoming promotions. There will also be a free download of a sample chapter available soon. But if you simply can’t wait and must have this new release, head over to Amazon or Audible to download the just released version of the book that HubSpot declared the #3 most highly-rated sales book of all time, and that 300 sales experts named as a top-five response when asked which one book they’d recommend every salesperson read.

I hope our friends to the north had a truly wonderful Canada Day and wish everyone in the States an enjoyable and fun Fourth of July. Here’s to great sales leadership and tons of New Sales in the back-half of 2017!

  • Mike
  • July 3, 2017
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